Cause of Diabetes and Other Diseases May Be Communication Glitch
It appears that communication problems don’t happen only to people; they also occur inside people. Danish researchers report that diabetes, cancer, and other diseases may be caused by a signaling problem with the cells; in other words, a communications glitch.
Cells need good communication
Most human cells are equipped with antennae—hairlike structures on their surface that receive signals from other cells and then convert them in response. What happens if the antennae are damaged, deformed, or otherwise malfunctioning?
Researchers believe serious health problems may result when these cellular antennae do not function properly and allow adequate communication among cells. Along with diseases such as heart defects, blindness, obesity, and polycystic kidney disease, poor cell communication also may be responsible for birth defects.
According to Dr. Soren Tyorup Christensen of the department of biology at the University of Copenhagen, a research team has “identified an entirely new way by which these antennae are able to register signals in their midst, signals that serve to determine how cells divide and move amongst one another.”
It appears the antennae do more than capture signals; they also transport receptors (including those called transforming growth factor beta, or TGFβ) to the base of the antennae, which then allows them to possibly interact with other signaling systems. Thus the base of the antennae acts as a control center, noted Christensen that “coordinates the cell’s ability to manage fetal development and the maintenance of organ function in adults.”
Previous research has shown that TGFβ receptors are associated with cancer and birth defects and that defective TGFβ signaling has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and mental retardation. Malfunction of TGFβ signaling also is known to be involved with congenital heart defects.
What this discovery means
The causes of most of today’s common major health problems, ranging from type 2 diabetes to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and others, remain elusive. Uncovering the reasons why these and other diseases develop can lead to better treatments and even cures.
The study’s authors have begun further research into how the cellular antennae are involved in regulating TGFB signaling. They hope to uncover how the antennae capture and transform signals within cells and thus better understand cell communication and how it is involved in causing diabetes and other serious diseases.
University of Copenhagen